Hotel and Culinary Management students attended a Thai cooking school after spending more than a week working in restaurants in Hong Kong. Bangkok is much different to Hong Kong in many aspects. The first thing students will tell you is that they can eat well for only a few dollars and secondly the flavours and aromas are much different than all the regional food of China that they’ve tried.

Thai food can be prepared in any kitchen fairly quickly and with only a few pieces of equipment. The most important being a wok and wok spatula with a rounded edge to toss the food, a steamer and basic pots for boiling. Most of the students time isn’t spent cooking the Thai dishes at school, but preparing ingredients that have to be chopped, marinated, squeezed, ground and grated.

Some ingredients in Bangkok are available in Thunder Bay and some are not. One ingredient that flavours soups and curries is the fresh kaffir lime. Here in Thailand they use the flavoured skin of the lime, but a key ingredient is the leaves of the tree which gives the food a wonderfully tangy taste. In Thunder Bay it is possible to get dried kaffir lime, but this is a poor substitute for the fresh product.

Students learnt how to make Thai curry pastes and seasoning combinations which go into many of their dishes. Basic curry pastes are made in a mortar and pestle and ground fine and can be kept in the freezer for up to 4 months.

Thai Red Curry Paste (Makes about ¾ cup)

1 tbsp Coriander seeds 1 tsp Cumin seed 3 Dried red chillies (split, deseeded and soaked in hot water 15 min.) 4 tbsp Shallots diced 10 cloves Garlic diced 2 inch Galingale sliced (optional) 2 tbsp Lemongrass sliced (only use the inside and bottom 1/3 of the stem) 2 tsp Kaffir lime zest 1 tbsp Cilantro chopped 12 Black peppercorns 1 tsp Shrimp paste (this can be purchased)

Method:

  1. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a wok over low heat for 5 minutes.
  2. Grind together in a mortar and pestle until fine, add all the other ingredients except the shrimp and grind.
  3. Blend in the shrimp paste until a fine texture is obtained.